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" ... Radiation levels remain high and no one knows for sure how to bring them down, or even if they can be brought down by any means other than waiting for however long it takes."

Radiation levels at Fukushima are rising. (photo: AP)
Radiation levels at Fukushima are rising. (photo: AP)

Fukushima Radiation Leaks Rise Sharply

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

11 July 13


Bad as the situation is at Fukushima, Japan, it's gotten worse.

Perhaps you've heard that radiation levels of the water leaving the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and flowing into the Pacific Ocean have risen by roughly 9,000 per cent. Turns out, that's probably putting a good face on it.

By official measurement, the water coming out of Fukushima is currently 90,000 times more radioactive than officially "safe" drinking water.

These are the highest radiation levels measured at Fukusmima since March 2011, when an earthquake-triggered tsunami destroyed the plant's four nuclear reactors, three of which melted down.

As with all nuclear reporting, precise and reliable details are hard to come by, but the current picture as of July 10 seems to be something like this:

  • On July 5, radiation levels at Fukushima were what passes for "normal," which means elevated and dangerous, but stable, according to measurements by the owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

  • On July 8, radiation levels had jumped about 90 times higher, as typically reported. TEPCO had no explanation for the increase.
  • On July 9, radiation levels were up again from the previous day, but at a slower rate, about 22 per cent. TEPCO still had no explanation.
  • On July 10, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a statement saying that the NRA strongly suspects the radioactive water is coming from Fukushima's Reactor #1 and is going into the Pacific.

We Must Do Something About This Thing with No Impact

"We must find the cause of the contamination … and put the highest priority on implementing countermeasures," NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told an NRA meeting, according to Japan Times.

As for TEPCO, the paper reported, "The utility has claimed it has detected 'no significant impact' on the environment."

Neither the NRA nor TEPCO has determined why the level of radioactivity has been increasing. Both characterize the increase as a "spike," but so far this is a "spike" that has not yet started to come down.

Here's another perspective on the same situation:

10 becquerels per liter - The officially "safe" level for radioactivity in drinking water, as set by the NRA.

A becquerel is a standard scientific measure of radioactivity, similar in some ways to a rad or a rem or a roentgen or a sievert or a curie, but not equivalent to any of them. But you don't have to understand the nuances of nuclear physics to get a reasonable idea of what's going on in Fukushima. Just keep the measure of that safe drinking water in mind, that liter of water, less than a quart, with 10 becquerels of radioactivity.

  • 60 becquerels per liter - For nuclear power plants, the safety limit for drinking water is 60 becquerels, as set by the NRA, with less concern for nuclear plant workers than ordinary civilians.
  • 60-90 becquerels per liter - For waste water at nuclear power plants, the NRA sets a maximum standard of 90 becquerels per liter for Cesium-137 and 60 becquerels per liter of Cesium-134.

At some of Fukushima's monitoring wells, radiation levels were in fractions of a becquerel on July 8 and 9. At the well (or wells) that are proving problematical, TEPCO has provided no baseline readings.

  • 9,000 becquerels per liter - On July 8, according to TEPCO, the company measured radioactive Cesium-134 at 9,000 becquerels per liter. Since TEPCO characterized this as 90 times higher than on July 5, the implication is that the earlier reading (about 100) was less than twice as toxic as the allowable limit and only 10 times more toxic than drinking water for civilians.
  • 11,000 becquerels per liter - TEPCO's measurement of Cesium-134 on July 9.
  • 18,000 becquerels per liter - TEPCO's measurement of Cesium-137 on July 8.
  • 22,000 becquerels per liter - TEPCO's measurement of Cesium-137 on July 9.
  • 900,000 becquerels per liter - TEPCO's measurement of the total radioactivity in the water leaking from Reactor #1. This radiation load includes both Cesium isotopes, as well as Tritium, Strontium and other beta emitters. There are more than 60 radioactive substances that have been identified at the Fukushima site.

A becquerel is a measure of the radioactivity a substance is emitting, a measure of the potential danger. There is no real danger from radiation unless you get too close to it - or it gets too close to you, especially from inhalation or ingestion.

Nobody Knows if It Will Get Worse, Get Better, or Just Stay Bad

The water flow through the Fukushima accident site is substantial and constant, both from groundwater and from water pumped into the reactors and fuel pools to prevent further meltdowns.

In an effort to prevent the water from reaching the ocean, TEPCO is building what amounts to a huge, underground dike, "a deeply sunken coastal containment wall." The NRA is calling on TEPCO to finish the project before its scheduled 2015 completion date.

Meanwhile, radiation levels remain high and no one knows for sure how to bring them down, or even if they can be brought down by any means other than waiting for however long it takes.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+60 # ER444 2013-07-11 12:36
This is a non-solvable problem. We are fucked.
-18 # Bill999 2013-07-11 16:22
We all gunna die someday. What does it matter, one at a time or all together in a mushroom cloud? The only thing we got left is love. Grok it while you can.
+48 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-07-11 19:53
Speak for yourself. There are a whole lot of innocent Other Living Things besides we humans....
+23 # Walter J Smith 2013-07-11 20:41
There are also a lot of humans, unlike you, humans who believe that no matter how bad it gets, fighting back every way we know how is better than capitulating into pure hedonism.

But I must admit your hedonism is of about the same character as our bipartisan political elite's.

Good luck.
+1 # brux 2013-07-12 00:03
Go get your depression treated or change your life ... don't try to make your hopeless sound normal, it's not, or it shouldn't be.
+62 # She Cee 2013-07-11 15:42
I find it unconscionable that this government is still permitting more reactors like Fukushima to be built and relicensing old plants that are old beyond their projected safe age.

What kind of madness is this when so many of these reactors have been built in locations that are vulnerable to earthquakes and other natural dangers?

Seems like the nuclear industry, like the oil industry, has too much power in D.C. I wonder who is getting paid off and who is so short-sighted and stupid enough to think he or she will not be affected should a disaster happen on our soil?
+49 # Helen 2013-07-11 17:20
Germany has a schedule for shutting down all its nuclear plants, and we should do the same. Nuclear power was a bad idea from the beginning, considering that we never had a place to send wastes that remain radioactive for hundreds if thousands of years. We knew that already in the beginning. Right now Congress is considering consolidated "interim" storage, which would entail unnecessarily transporting these wastes on our roads and highways, just to benefit the nuclear industry. Instead, these wastes should be stored in dry hardened, secure casks, on site, and moved only after a permanent site is determined.
+13 # soularddave 2013-07-11 22:09
Much of the waste at hand hast to be kept cool by pumping water to the "container". The water must be contained within the cooling system, at least until the water becomes too "hot". Then it must be replaced without losing track of the radioactive water that got "retired". All this must be safeguarded against all hazards - like earthquake, rain overflow, hurricane, tornado, and of course, those pesky "terrorists".
-3 # brux 2013-07-12 00:06
Japan screwed up .... as everyone has done with nuclear power.

That does not mean nuclear power will not work.

Look at what happened and it is easily fixable, that is the tragedy ... how idiotic of Japan and the world no to engineer a nuclear plant that can be shut down ... because that is the problem.

Start putting people in jail who contributed to this, and start demanding transparency in business, particularly strategic business like food, energy, medicine, etc.

Nothing is going to change until we demand it.
0 # dagnew 2013-07-14 12:24
Quoting brux:
Japan screwed up .... as everyone has done with nuclear power.

That does not mean nuclear power will not work.

Look at what happened and it is easily fixable, that is the tragedy ... how idiotic of Japan and the world no to engineer a nuclear plant that can be shut down ... because that is the problem.

The U.S. company, General Electric, designed the reactors at Fukushima, and they've been known faulty since at least 1972. Faulty meaning that their containments cannot contain! They CAN be shutdown, and were. But they must be cooled for weeks afterwards and they lost all ability to cool them (despite having 8 hours of battery backup whereas many U.S. reactors operated with just 4.

You're right, it doesn't mean nuclear can't work - but it's track record is abysmal (>1% of reactors have suffered catastrophic accidents) considering the cost of failure. And this despite 7 decades of heavy subsidies in the U.S.
-3 # brux 2013-07-14 23:53
Yeah, I know - although faulty in this case was not a failure of the containment vessel ... it was a failure of the people in charge to engineer appropriately. I do think General Electric should accept blame.

When I say they cannot be shutdown, I mean you cannot shut down a nuclear plant and evacuate it with no people, and no inputs, ie. water, electricity, etc.

The track record is pretty damn stellar if you ask me. Look at the roughly 20% of national power nuclear supplies and then total up deaths in all the other energy generation methods I think nuclear is on a par if not better, including victims of accidents.

We subsidized everything national in this country, we have to.

I don't know what can be done about nuclear. I don't dismiss your concerns, I just think there is no way this should have happened ... so why did it?

What really needs to happen is what happens in airlines when there are too many crashes, or medicine, or any dangerous process, it needs to be publicly investigated and reported on, and it might help to get out all the people who have worked there, or do an inventory of them and their accomplishments.

Nuclear has too much potential to let the argument go to the wackos on either extreme. We need to stop putting CO2 into the air on a massive scale, and nuclear is about the only way to do that.
+29 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-07-11 16:10
I guess "too cheap to meter" has quit being the standard for nuclear power.
+15 # Cougar27 2013-07-11 16:15
What do you want to bet that the world, especially the US, won't be force fed pictures of disfigured "Fukushima maidens" for the next 40 or 50 years.

Oh, no. Japan will not try to put a guilt trip on its own mega-buck businesses.
+42 # Barkingcarpet 2013-07-11 16:15
Forever long it takes, is, well, effectively, forever.....
It is well past time for We, the PEOPLE, worldwide, to take our world back from the corrupt and psychopathic "leaders" and begin the process of cleaning up and repairing the mess' we have made of Nature, and the living diverse Natural systems called life.
Tikkun is a great word and concept. Look it up and begin to embody it folks. Any future life will give thanks....
Are we up to the task, or will we fail to protect, preserve, steward, and create a future worth living in?
We know the score.....
We create the future, with every waking dollar, with every flip of the switch, and turn of the key. Are we consumers, or active conservers and creators?
+16 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-07-11 18:58
Are we consumers, or active conservers and creators?

This is the heart of the question..thank you for putting it into words.
+7 # Arden 2013-07-11 16:48
Our most serious problem, and there are no real solution that anyone can see...and yet, still we must hope.
+24 # blizmo1 2013-07-11 16:49

It is becoming the only go-to source for news for me, I support monthly as much as I can -- my stomach is churning at the thought that these great people might have to close up shop.

WHO THE HELL ELSE IS PURSUING THE BRADLEY MANNING STORY, possibly one of the most important stories of this century? (The thread began to be tugged by him, setting the precedent for Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald...)

Please, everyone -- cough up what you ca and support this emerging pillar of journalistic integrity. On a monthly basis, please, so we don't have to see the agonizing pleas for support...don't know where I'd be without it...

+17 # Lowflyin Lolana 2013-07-11 19:00
RSN has done nothing but improve in the years it's been online. And with great original reporting it has gotten even better. I signed up for a monthly donation after I saw Daniel Ellsberg writing for RSN in support of Brad Manning. Because of RSN I get turned on to articles I do not otherwise have the time to search for. It is a valuable resource to me.
+9 # Moefwn 2013-07-12 07:00
I also contribute monthly. RSN is my #1 news source. I only wish I could afford to give more than I already do.
+5 # tedrey 2013-07-12 10:41
Ditto for me.

In fact, I just now doubled my monthly donation (and I'm about to do the same for TruthOut.)
+13 # Moefwn 2013-07-12 07:05
This, and many possible results of it, has been predicted since the 50's. (If you younger folks don't believe me, take a look at some comic books from back then - radioactive mutants and dead tracts of land galore.) Somehow the voices of warning have been ignored for over half a century. Is it too late to turn back now? Are we actually so short-sighted as to doom the entire planet? Speak louder, my friends.
+2 # DPM 2013-07-13 17:29
My income is small, but I contribute monthly. Who else will do the same.
Thanks, blozmo1
+1 # Margery 2013-07-11 17:34
"And we'll all go together when we go. . . "
+11 # cordleycoit 2013-07-11 18:12
Here we are with the mess of our generations fouling. Our fearless leader wishes to fire up a bunch more of these plants to pay off his banker backers. Good people believe the lies he tells us, Why we tolerate this must be sheer lazyenss.
+23 # nancyw 2013-07-11 18:50
Eat no more fish from the Pacific no matter where - even Alaska. We are pathetic.... as my husband remarks, humans are life cancer devouring the earth. We must more than hope that some brilliant scientist with ethics and morals will find a way to help us; and that we the people will rise with brilliance and clarity as to how to stop the madness of this century. Rise up! Every moment and every action counts.
+15 # Eliza D 2013-07-11 20:59
Cilantro,parsle y,garlic, chorella, iodine-these should be part of your diet every day, my friends. We have all been exposed to this radiation as it travelled with the wind across the northern hemisphere and can do something to help our bodies expel the poison. That's the body part. For the spirit we must stand and scream to those precipitating these horrors for ourselves, our children and all the beautiful life on this planet, that we are not going to continue to walk this road. Get together with your neighbors and build a windmill, plant a community garden. "My books and my garden are all I need" said Cicero.
+4 # Romi 2013-07-12 13:16
Yes, Eliza, diet is crucial in detoxifying after a radioactive "event." After the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a Japanese doctor who survived took over the care of other survivors. He fed them on a traditional Japanese diet, and included brown rice, miso soup, seaweed and vegetables. All of his patients survived, and did far better than those treated by American doctors.
His name was Tatsuichiro Akizuki. It is really hard to find anything about him any more (hmmm... I wonder why?) but you can find out about it at
Try digging around the internet for more about Dr. Akizuki and his diet.
+7 # Romi 2013-07-11 23:52
This is DIS-information . There is NO SAFE LEVEL of radioactivity.

None. All Boardman's talk of becquerels and rads and rems is a "snow job" to fool you into thinking that he knows what he is talking about.

And yes, we DO know how long it will take for all the radioactive isotopes at Fukushima to decay. It is no secret: BILLIONS OF YEARS. Complete radioactive decay is generally accepted to be TEN HALF-LIVES. So, if the half-life of caesium-137 is approximately 30.17 years, the total time it will take for ALL the radioactivity to be emitted is about 300 years.
But caesium-137 is only one of dozens of radioactive isotopes emitted at Fukushima and other nuclear power plants, and some of them, like tellurium-128 and Te-130 have half-lives of 2.2 SEPTILLION and 790 QUINTILLION years.
And that's only their half-lives.
Another element, which CANNOT be removed from waste water, is tritium, with a half-life considered to be about 12 years, thus requiring more than 120 years for it to completely decay.
+4 # WBoardman 2013-07-14 14:56
Seriously, Romi? DISinformation?

There's no suggestion in my article that I think
there is any safe lefel of radiation --
because I don't, and there isn't.

Why do you suppose the phrase
"the officially 'safe ' level"
has "safe" in quotes?
I did it twice, in fact.

Personal, ad hominem attacks are not arguments.

Most of what you say is what I assume a reasonably
well-informed person already knows and will use to inform
a careful reading of what I reported about specifics
of Fukushima at the moment.

As far as I can tell, none of what you said
contradicts anything factual in my piece.

And the hostility just mystifies me.
-5 # gottfried 2013-07-16 19:37
No safe level of radioactivity? Really? Then how did life evolve on this planet, as bathed in radiation as it is. You are exposed by the sun above you (cosmic radiation, both photons and particulate), the dirt below (uranium/thoriu m decay chains in construction materials, etc), and the food you eat (bananas, spinach, etc.), not to mention medical (dental x-rays, CT scans, etc.). It has been a part of life on earth far longer than humans have been a part of life earth. To say that there is no safe level is to ignore reality or to take the logical but substantively useless extreme that everything is unsafe (walking, drinking, eating, etc.).

Becquerel - disintegration per second.
rad - energy absorbed per mass.
rem - stochastic biological risk.

-Health Physicist
0 # WBoardman 2013-08-12 17:32
All true enough, but essentially beside the point.

Radiation levels had to fall for eons before life on earth
was even possible. To speak of background radiation or
environmental radiation as "safe" is really only to say the exposure is low enough that most of us won't live long enough to suffer the damage it causes.

The background level has been rising slowly since 1945,
in part because humans have been adding to it.

So the question is real enough, although perhaps
unanswerable till we're looking back on it -- how much
ionizing radiation can we absorb before we can no longer
expect to die before it takes its toll in numbers no longer
as acceptable as the current level of collateral damage
the human culture tolerates, mostly in ignorance?

Perhaps I should have used a different phrase -- no safe radiation dose or some such -- but the reality of the danger would be unchanged.

Most people can probably get away with "Be happy, don't worry" lifestyles, but that's partly because an essentially dishonest nuclear industry still hasn't moved very far from saying radiation measured in "sunshine units" is good for you.
+9 # jwb110 2013-07-12 00:50
TEPCO is just another "Too Big to Fail" company that is standing around waiting for our gov't and our tax dollars to fix their mess.
+4 # Jack Gibson 2013-07-12 18:42
Except, it will never be truly fixed. They'll just profit off of the money in any and all ways that they can, at everyone's expense. These people don't care how many millions of people die.
+1 # Jack Gibson 2013-07-12 20:55
See my comments in reply to William Boardman's previous article, and comments, on this topic, at:

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